Given Doncaster’s injury crisis which has deprived them of 12 players plus another through suspension, the Castle Park club were praying that, at long last, any luck on offer would go their way.
Not so. Just before half-time during the eventual defeat by Ealing by three tries to none during a close contest, another experienced player, prop Robin Hislop, left the field with suspected concussion.
What did surprise was how competitive the Knights were and how ordinary they made the Trailfinders look during several phases.Guy Williams
The extent of his head injury will become known later today after medical tests, but it is thought Hislop will now join the seemingly endless list of absentees – forwards Ollie Stedman, Rory Pitman, Michael Hills, Tom Hicks, Matt Smith, Colin Quigley, Sam Jones and Matt Challinor and, in the backs, Dougie Flockhart, Kurt Morath, Peter Lucock and Jack Roberts.
No wonder that Doncaster are struggling towards the bottom of the Championship table with just two wins in six league matches.
While this defeat at Castle Park was not a surprise considering the home side’s problems and Ealing’s high league position, what did surprise was how competitive the Knights were and how ordinary they made the Trailfinders look during several phases.
Indeed, three first-half penalties by fly-half Sam Olver ensured that Doncaster were behind by only one point (10-9) at the interval after an opening 40 minutes of stalemate.
A try by flanker Andrew Durutalo from a lineout and a penalty and a conversion from Ealing fly-half Craig Willis provided the London club with the narrow lead, and with nothing to suggest they were superior, Doncaster seemed on course to earn some points.
However, as the second half developed, while Ealing continued to concede penalties, their forwards gained control of possession and most of the territory. As a result, the game was then played almost entirely in Doncaster’s half.
Doncaster’s scoring chances were restricted, but the visitors did take advantage of promising positions. After Doncaster were penalised in their 22 and then infringed near their posts, pressure from the Ealing pack drove over prop Will Davis for their second try on 58 minutes and with Willis converting, the lead stretched to 17-9.
The Knights’ fighting spirit then created a decent attacking opportunity in the 72nd minute as the pack entered Ealing’s 22, but solid defence by the Londoners and a knock-on by Doncaster ruined chances of a late try to boost hopes of achieving at least a losing bonus point.
Instead, to add insult to injury, Doncaster were penalised again and from a quickly taken kick, Ealing captain No 8 Rayan Smid barged over to claim their third try and all the spoils.
Doncaster Knights: Packman, Evans (Cowell 59), Hayes, Foley (Doherty 59), Lewis, Olver, James (Pocklington 67), Hislop (Thomas 38), Hunter (Holling 65), Foster (Suter 53), Farrar, Eames, Birch (Conradie 59), Edgson (Sproston 72), Calladine.
Ealing Trailfinders: Johnston, Niko, Jones (Bell 74), Sloan, Joseph, Willis, Hampson (Fowles 49), Davis (Ellwood 59), Walker (Cornish 66), Millar-Mills (Trenier 56), Dickinson (Murphy 56), West (Casson 56), Reid, Durutalo 8(Robinson 75), Smid.
Referee: T Wigglesworth.